The Heard Museum World Championship Hoop Dance Contest combines artistry, athleticism and cultural traditions to create a unique competition. Top American Indian and Canadian First Nations hoop dancers are preparing to compete for the prestigious title of world champion during the two-day event at the Heard Museum on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 7-8.

Hoop dancing is a long-standing tradition in many Native cultures. This unique dance can involve the use of more than 50 hoops. Passed down from one generation to the next, hoop dancing communicates individual and tribal stories using hoops to create symbols and depict animals of great meaning.

The continuous circle of the hoops symbolizes the circle of life and the continuous change of the seasons. It’s not clear which tribe founded traditional hoop dancing, because many tribes have a history of the practice in various ceremonies.

Modern-day hoops are made from reed and plastic hose because of the durability of the material when traveling. The hoops are then decorated with tape and paint to symbolize the changing colors of each season. Traditional wooden hoops still are used on rare occasions.

Dancers are judged on precision, timing/rhythm, creativity and speed. Creativity and speed help balance the scores between competitors who use more versus fewer hoops and those whose music is faster versus others who dance to slower beats.

The Heard Museum is located at 2301 N. Central Ave., and opens at 9:30 a.m. The Hoop Dance Finals begin at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Admission per day is $18 general admission; $13.50 seniors (65+); $12 Heard Museum members and American Indians; $7.50 children 4-12; and free for children under 4. Tickets include the event and museum admission. Buy tickets in person or online at


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